‘Sleeping while standing’ and other city jail bluesPhilippine Daily Inquirer
Some have mastered the pitiful art of sleeping “in a standing position.” Others likened themselves to canned sardines “just waiting for the sauce.”
One bitterly noted that all his eight court hearings for the past two years had been postponed for one reason or another.
These were just some of the findings of a nongovernment organization which had been working to improve the conditions and protect the rights of jail inmates, starting with legal education sessions and other measures to address overcrowding.
The Humanitarian Legal Assistance Foundation (HLAF) recently held a series of dialogues with different jail officials in Metro Manila. It also conducted training in criminal law for detainees who are expected to remain behind bars for several years, like those charged with heinous crimes.
In a statement, HLAF said that with the help of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology it had successfully worked on the release of almost 2,000 inmates in just four months.
The HLAF dialogues were held with the support of the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAid) and the New Zealand Embassy in Manila.
The group discovered, for example, that more than half or about 59 percent of court hearings involving Quezon City jail inmates from March to May this year did not push through. In Caloocan City, 51 percent of the hearings were postponed.
HLAF Executive Director Rommel Alim Abitria came across the case of one inmate “whose eight hearings in a span of two years were all postponed.”
“The inmates said their hearings were often reset for various reasons: The judge, the prosecutor, or the arresting officer was not available,” HLAF said.
It also noted that more than a third of the total number of inmates in Caloocan and Quezon City are suffering from various ailments, from toothaches to diabetes, from festering boils to cervical cancer.
As of May 2012, the Caloocan City Jail was holding 1,290 male and 70 female inmates, or about double its “ideal capacity” of about 600 inmates, it said.
In the Pasig City Jail, 614 inmates shared cells built only for a hundred people. That’s “514 percent” of its intended capacity, the group also reported.
“It is said that in certain city jails, inmates sleep in a standing position, or they sleep in ‘shifts’ due to lack of space,” HLAF added. Volt Contreras